A hookah is a type of water pipe used to smoke flavored tobacco, which is a popular social activity among young adults in the United States, the United Kingdom and the Middle East. Many people believe hookahs are safer than cigarettes because the smoke goes through water before it is inhaled, but The Bacchus Network says it does not lessen tobacco's harmful effects.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the hookah consists of four parts: the smoke chamber, the bowl, the pipe and the hose. The person inhales through the hose, which causes pressure to build up in the bowl. This heats the tobacco and causes it to smoke. From there, the smoke travels through the smoke chamber, which is partially filled with water, and travels through the pipe, out of the hose and into the person's mouth.
Hookahs use various types of shisha, a type of sticky tobacco soaked in molasses or honey. It typically has a sweet aroma. Shisha is available in several flavors, including apple, plum, coconut, mint, strawberry and mango.
Other names for hookahs include water pipe, goza, borry, arhile, narghile and hubble-bubble.
It is a common myth that hookahs are safer than smoking cigarettes. According to Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights (ANR), inhaling smoke from a hookah contains the same carcinogenic components found in cigarette smoke.
Hookah smokes contain 36 times more tar than cigarette smoke. It also contains 15 times more carbon monoxide and higher levels of lead, nickel and arsenic. Hookah smoke also contains nicotine, a chemical found in tobacco leaves that causes an addictive effect.
Using hookahs can increase a person's risk for developing cancer, heart disease and dental disease. Hookah smokers also risk causing damage to their lungs, catching the flu, developing a cold or even catching infections such as oral herpes. Hookahs are shared by many people, which increases the risk of catching viral or bacterial infections.